Throughout the Old Testament, Sabbaths were observed on different days and observed for different lengths. A Sabbath was actually from God or designed by God for mankind. No work was to be done on a Sabbath outside of essential duties like feeding the livestock. Under the Law the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was a mild one – death. (It seems there was this random guy gathering wood on a Sabbath and wondering what to do with him the Israelites inquired of the Lord. God’s reply was that he must die outside the camp – Numbers 15. Yikes!) The word Sabbath in Hebrew means to take an intermission or cessation from work. It is a repose, a desist from exertion in order to seek the Lord and God was quite serious about it.
Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:23-28). The Living Bible states it this way, “But the Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath.” Every creature God created needs rest, a cessation period. When God said that six days we will work but rest on the seventh He included the hard-working ox and donkey too (Exodus 23:12). Even today, a wise farmer learns the principle of letting fields be fallow and rest for a season. No one would be productive working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even Jesus rested from His labor. (See Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:31)
A Sabbath is God’s idea; He instituted it. The IBM Company, along with others, actually has a sabbatical policy. I remember as a child that my neighbor’s father would receive a sabbatical from Bethlehem Steel every so many years. From the Church of God Pastoral Program book comes this statement, “There would seem to be no doubt that many pastors who left ministry would never have made that decision if they had been given the opportunity for some time away from the pressures. It should also be pointed out that other members of the pastoral family share those same needs to a greater or lesser degree. Sabbatical planning should always include the family.”
Joe Reynolds, CEO of Red Frog Events has instituted a sabbatical policy for his company and says this about sabbaticals: Everyone needs to recharge. Frogs (his employees) can disconnect for a full month every five years. A month away allows enough time to come back hungry to tackle the next big project. Appreciation goes a long way. I give tremendous latitude, sabbaticals included, and it’s appreciated. People who love their job perform better. They gain perspective. It helps bring fresh thoughts to the table on your next project. Valuable family or friend time. Red Frogger’s flat-out work hard. A month away every five years allows time to reconnect with a loved one. Going outside of your comfort zone elicits unconventional ideas. Being away for a month breed’s creativity. My best ideas come during extended time away.
DOVE International, where I serve, has a sabbatical policy and it is now my time to take that break from normal ministerial and writing duties. I have written about this subject to you because I am about to embark upon an eight week Sabbath in order to rest, receive some training, “breed creativity,” and hear God for the coming years. For that reason, I will be back to writing my blog and communicating with you once again this coming September with, hopefully, fresh insight and revelation. Stay healthy and have a blessed summer!